I love Northern Indian cuisine, but am allergic to cumin. Can anyone suggest a substitute for cumin to use in making garam masala from Northern India?

  • Related/possible duplicate: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/9791/…
    – Cindy
    Jul 10, 2017 at 17:54
  • Is caraway an option? Jul 10, 2017 at 18:01
  • Shah Jeera (which seems to be a kind of caraway that is a bit more cumin-y than western caraway)? Jul 10, 2017 at 19:33
  • Caraway is an option, as I am not allergic to it. Thanks for all the replies.
    – petec
    Jul 10, 2017 at 20:05
  • Note that Black Cumin, is in fact closely related to Cumin, so I'd stay away from it if I were you. I'm warning you because it sometimes gets labeled as Shah Jeera (or Kala Jeera). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bunium_bulbocastanum
    – FuzzyChef
    Jul 13, 2017 at 23:14

3 Answers 3


There seem to be more than a few well known curries that use neither garam masala nor cumin - for example, Camellia Panjabi's "50 great curries of india" (an older vintage but good cookbook IMHO) lists a Rogan Josh and a Safed Murgh Korma meeting this constraint.

Also, "Nadan" style south indian beef curries seem to be commonly cumin-less, and they could fit well together with north indian dishes even while not north indian.

Also, while it is a different flavor, Ajowan (or even Thyme) can go great lengths at creating a "balanced" indian flavor profile where nothing seems missing (it is commonly used as one of defining spices in samosas).

  • Thank You rackandboneman, I just ordered Camellias book.
    – petec
    Jul 10, 2017 at 20:10
  • Not many cumin-less ones in there, BUT these are all old school restaurant recipes that rarely rely on premade spice mixes or even premade coconut milk etc... some anglo-indian influence but not takeaway style stuff. Jul 10, 2017 at 22:40

My recommendation is that you simply omit the cumin. Garam Masala, depending on the recipe you follow, has 6-8 other spices in it. Chances are, if you just take out the cumin, you won't notice.

If you try the result and you feel that it's really missing something, then I'd suggest adding fennel seed, black mustard seed, or a second variety of dried chile pepper.

  • A big thanks to all who have answered my question!
    – petec
    Jul 12, 2017 at 22:16

You can try replacing it with dill seeds. However, what exactly is it in cumin that causes your allergy? Find that out and avoid that whole class of spices/plants. I think cumin is from parsley family.

You can try using mustard seed powder instead of cumin and make your "garam' masala.

Also, read this to get more ideas/substitutes http://adventuresinspice.com/flavormap/flavormap.html#cumin

you should also read this thread: What is this fungus/lichen in my Garam Masala? (“Trifle”/truffle?)

  • 1
    Thanks for that info. I'm not allergic to the parsley family and can safely eat parsley. I don't know what exactly it is with cumin that I'm allergic to, but I can't even eat Heinz ketcup, because it contains some cumin. I was hoping for some detailed garam masala recipe with the proportion between different ingredients.
    – petec
    Jul 10, 2017 at 17:42

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